Big Business Paid For Their Beds, Now Republicans Have to Lie in Them

 

 

by Walter Brasch

 

            Historian and satirist Thomas Carlyle said "a lie cannot live." However, Mark Twain casually remarked, "It shows that he did not know how to tell them."

            More than a century later, newly-elected Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-dominated Wisconsin legislature have proven themselves to be "quick studies," having learned how to tell whoppers about the working class and unions. Here are just a few.

 

            LIE: The public workers' pensions are what caused much of the financial crisis not just in Wisconsin but throughout the country. Gov. Walker has repeatedly said, "We're broke . . . We don't have any money."

            FACTS: Wisconsin had a $120 million surplus when Walker came into office in January. Had the newly-elected Republican-dominated Legislature in January not given about $140 million in special tax breaks (also known as "corporate welfare") to business, the state could have had a surplus, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau. About two-thirds of all Wisconsin corporations pay no taxes at all, according to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue.

             Wisconsin could also save significant expenses by having state-employed fiscal analysts, not Wall Street investment counselors, handle the entire pension investment portfolio. Wisconsin pays about $28 million to state managers to handle about half the portfolio; it pays about $195 million to Wall Street investment brokers to handle the other half, according to the 2010 annual report of the Wisconsin Investment Board.

            Noam Chomsky, in an interview with Amy Goodman of "Democracy Now," correctly points out, "the population in the United States is angry, frustrated, full of fear and irrational hatreds. And the folks not far from you on Wall Street are just doing fine. They’re the ones who created the current crisis." The Great Recession has cost states revenue, not because of the workers' salaries and pensions but because the values went down because of lax oversight primarily during a Republican administration. Even with the Wall Street crisis, and lower-than-expected revenue, the Wisconsin pension fund is fully funded, able to meet its obligation for several years, according to the independent PEW Center for the States.

            Columnist Robert Greenwald says the "shortfall" would be wiped out if Wisconsin brought home only 151 troops from the war in Afghanistan. If the U.S. left Afghanistan completely, the state would save $1.7 billion, according to Greenwald's analysis.

 

            LIE: The reason the Republicans throughout the country want to end collective bargaining by the public service unions is to bring fiscal responsibility to the states.

            TRUTH: In January 2010, the Supreme Court by a 5–4 decision along party lines declared that corporations enjoy the protection of the First Amendment. This meant that companies could increase funding and advertising for candidates. As expected, the Chamber of Commerce and corporate America gave vast amounts of money to Republican and conservative candidates; labor donated to liberal and Democratic candidates, who traditionally support the working class. In the 2010 mid-term election, seven of the top 10 donors contributed to conservative and Republican candidates. The other three in the Top 10 were labor political action committees. Eliminating collective bargaining for public sector workers would destroy the union movement and significantly reduce the influence of labor in campaigns. Walker has already shown his colors and intent when he was caught in a radio prank. On Feb. 23, Ian Murphy, editor of The Buffalo Beast, pretended to be billionaire David Koch, a supporter of far-right causes, and a major contributor to Walker's gubernatorial campaign. Punked by the 20-minute call, Walker seemed to be little more than a sycophant for Big Business. The Republicans' reaction? Instead of worrying about possible ethics violations by the governor, the Republicans planted a bill into the legislature to criminalize prank phone calls

 

            LIE: The unions are greedy and won't budge.

            FACTS: The 267,000 Wisconsin public sector workers, as well as all elected officials, Democrat and Republican, do pay very little to their pensions. However, the unions have already said they'd be willing to pay a higher contribution, essentially taking an 8 percent pay cut, and negotiate fairly other parts of the contracts. Gov. Walker not only refused to budge on his autocratic stand, he refused to take calls from elected Democrats and bluntly told the Milwaukee Journal, "I don't have anything to negotiate."

 

            LIE: Gov. Walker's proposal affects every union in Wisconsin.

            TRUTH: He exempted firefighters and police from his draconian assault upon unions, possibly because he was attempting to get support from the first responders, while mining sympathy from the public. What he didn't count on was that the firefighters and police unions are firm in their opposition to the abolishment of collective bargaining.

 

            LIE: Gov. Walker says he's just helping the worker when he argues for elimination of the "dues check-off," saying the workers would have more disposable income.

            TRUTH: Eliminating dues check-off would cripple unions, which would have to rely solely upon voluntary contributions.

 

            LIE: Gov. Walker enjoys wide-spread support for his stand against the unions.

            TRUTH: Walker has been governor less than two months. If the election were repeated, he'd receive only about 45 percent of the vote, according to the independent Public Policy Polling (PPP) of Raleigh, N.C. More important, while only 3 percent of Republicans voted for Tom Barratt, the Democratic candidate in the November election, 10 percent of the Republicans say they'd vote for him in a new election, according to PPP. The Republican governors of Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Indiana have said they will not follow Walker's lead, and will support the rights of public workers to bargain collectively. The massive protests in Wisconsin—more than 100,000 in Madison on the same day—and throughout the nation give evidence that Walker doesn't have the popularity he and his supporters believe. A New York Times/CBS poll, released March 1, indicates only about one-third of the nation supports the campaign against public sector collective bargaining. A week earlier, an independent USA Today/Gallup poll had almost the same results.

 

            LIE: The protestors are unruly, and should be arrested for violating the law.

            TRUTH: The First Amendment gives people the right to assemble peacefully. There have been no arrests because there have been no crimes committed by the protestors. Further, when the governor and the Legislature demanded that protestors be thrown out of the state capitol, and not allowed to stay overnight, the chief of the Capitol Police refused to do so, believing the order was a violation of Constitutional rights. In contrast, Walker had actually considered, and then rejected, the idea of planting troublemakers among the protestors—a "dirty trick" that dates back to the '60s.

 

            LIE: Public sector union workers are overpaid.  

            TRUTH: A USA Today analysis, published March 1, shows that, on average, public service workers, with wages and benefits included, are paid about $2,500 more per year than those in the private sector. In Wisconsin, the difference is only about $1,800. However, government workers usually are "older and substantially better educated than private sector workers," according to researchers Robert Pollin and Jeffrey Thompson, professors of economics at the University of Massachusetts. But, again contrary to the lies spewed by the anti-worker Rabid Right, individual union workers, when compared to the same criteria as private sector workers, actually earn 4 percent less income, according to the Center for Economic Policy Research. In Wisconsin, public sector union workers actually earn 4.8 percent less total compensation, according to research published in February by the Economic Policy Institute. One statistic stands out. "The average member of AFSCME, our largest public-sector union, earns less than $45,000 a year," says author/journalist Bill Press, "and retires after a career in public service with a whopping pension of $19,000 per year."

 

            LIE: Public service union workers are lazier than non-unionized private sector workers.

            TRUTH: Strong labor unions generally have higher productivity, according to independent research done by Harley Shaiken of the University of California, because there are not only better work conditions, but also a better-educated workforce, less turnover, and better communication between management and labor.

 

            [Walter Brasch, during a 40-year work career in mass communications has been a member of several unions, in both the private and public sectors. He is a syndicated newspaper columnist and the author of 16 books, including With Just Cause: Unionization of the American Journalist. He can be contacted at walterbrasch@gmail.com]

 

 

Weekly Audit: Police Defy Order to Clear Protesters from Wisconsin Capital

 

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

On Monday afternoon, the Capitol Police in Madison, Wisconsin refused to enforce an order to clear the Capitol building of hundreds of peaceful protesters who have been occupying the site to protest Governor Scott Walker’s plan to eliminate the collective bargaining rights of public employees.

Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! interviews State Rep. Kelda Helen Roys (D), who spent Sunday night in the Capitol building with other protesters. Roys describes what happened at four o’clock on Monday afternoon when the government gave the order to clear the protesters from the building:

And after several hours of the same sorts of scenes that we’ve been seeing all week—singing, chanting, drumming, speechifying—the Capitol police captain, Chief Tubbs, made an announcement, and he said that the protesters that had remained in the building, they were being orderly and responsible and peaceful and there was no reason to eject them from the Capitol.

Police attempted to clear the building of protesters on Sunday night, but they relented when the protesters refused to leave and allowed them to stay another night. On Monday, the police decided not to eject protesters already inside, but no additional activists would be allowed in. The governor plans to deliver his budget address on Tuesday afternoon. Walker is expected to call for spending cuts that could exceed $1 billion dollars.

Gov. Walker has threatened mass public sector layoffs if the Democratic senators do not return from Illinois by March 1. However, the Uptake.com reports that one of the absent legislators, State Sen. Jon Erpenbach, claims Walker is not telling the truth. Erpenbach says the unions have already agreed to come up with the money the governor needs to balance the budget, and therefore, he has no need to lay anyone off to bridge the gap.

Wisconsin 101

Matthew Rothschild of The Progressive describes the epic scale of the Wisconsin protests:

This is the largest sustained rally for the rights of public sector workers that this country has seen in decades — perhaps ever.

The crowds at the state Capitol have swelled from 10,000-65,000 during the first week all the way up to 100,000 on Feb. 26. Hundreds of people occupied the Capitol building with a sit-in and sleep-in for days on end, and total strangers from around the world ordered pizzas for them.

In case you’re still wondering what all of this means, Andy Kroll, Nick Baumann, and Siddhartha Mahanta of Mother Jones have joined forces to bring you this “Wisconsin 101″ primer.

The Republicans in the Wisconsin House passed a bill that would take away collective bargaining rights for public sector unions, restrict their ability to collect dues, and force them to undergo yearly recertification votes. But the bill cannot become law until the state Senate also passes it. Currently, 14 Democratic state senators are hiding out in Illinois to deprive the Republican majority of the quorum they need to vote on the bill. However, as Kroll notes, if only one Democrat breaks faith and returns to Madison, the Republicans will be able to pass the bill.

Nationwide solidarity

Jamilah King of Colorlines.com brings us a photo essay on the solidarity rallies held around the country over the weekend in support of the Wisconsin protesters. From San Francisco to Salt Lake City to Atlanta to New York, people took to the streets in support of the right of workers to organize. Also at Colorlines.com, historian Michael Honey draws parallels between the situation in Wisconsin and Dr. Martin Luther King’s last crusade. Shortly before his assassination, King stood with the sanitation workers of Memphis to demand collective bargaining rights and the power to collect union dues.

George Warner of Campus Progress profiles some young activists who took to the streets of Washington, D.C. to express their solidarity with the Wisconsin protesters. About 1,500 people came out to a rally in support of the protesters on Saturday.

Anonymous strikes again

In a bizarre twist, a loosely organized coalition of anarchic hackers known as “Anonymous” attacked websites linked to Koch Industries on Sunday, Jessica Pieklo reports for Care2.com. The Koch brothers are among Gov. Walker’s most generous benefactors. The hackers launched a distributed denial of service attack on the website of the Koch-funded conservative group Americans for Prosperity.

In addition to generous campaign contributions, the Koch brothers gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Association, which in turn paid for millions of dollars worth of ads against Walker’s opponent in 2010. Walker is evidently very grateful to Koch. Last week, a writer for a Buffalo-based website got Walker on the phone by pretending to be David Koch.

Don’t look now, but…

Meanwhile, in Indiana, the state assembly reconvened on Monday to find most of the 40 Democratic members had decamped for Illinois. The legislators are apparently taking a page from the Wisconsin playbook. Indiana’s Republican governor is trying to pass legislation that would make permanent a ban on collective bargaining by public sector workers and the Democratic legislators are seeking to deny him the 2/3rds quorum required to vote on the bill.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the economy by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Audit for a complete list of articles on economic issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Mulch, The Pulse and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Gov. Cheesehead is as Smooth as a Double-Cream Muenster

If you’re a liberal who screamed bloody murder about ACORN or a conservative who thought using faux pimps as extras in second-rate video was A-OK – and you now feel obliged to jump to the other side of the fence or yank funding from someone – go Googlize yourself now, because this post isn’t for you.

Dude! You’ve been punked!

Wisconsin Governor Scott “Cheesehead™” Walker has run afoul of a liberal newspaper editor running a reverse ACORNization on him. The Big Cheese™ believed he was speaking with conservative gajillionaire/amateur tea brewer David Koch. And judging from the conversation, he poured out his heart to Koch as though channeling Ayn Rand.

Much of what transpired isn’t particularly surprising nor unusual in the political arena – purely standard playbook stuff really. Possibly planting trouble stirrer uppers in the crowd? Meh. Saying the current hoopla is all about Wisconsin’s budget? If so, he’s also hoping the anti-union movement will spread across the country. or, in Chester Cheetos’ words, “Yep, this is our moment.” Imagine that! Two birds with one brick of cheddar!

And his idea of bipartisanship? Well, lure recalcitrant Democrats back to the Capitol and then pass the bill while they’re still in talks. And if you’re a Dem patting yourself on the back about how smooth the Cheese Dems are, remember this: The old “living at a secret undisclosed location” ploy was pioneered by Texas state Repubs and endorsed by Ex-Hammer and soon to be present Prisoner No. BR-549, Tom “Dancin’ as Fast as He Can With Bum Ankles” Delay.

Card Carrying Member of the Cult of St. Ronnie of Reagan

But other things? Other things were, um… Well Gov, perhaps you should have your people call their people at the Mendota Mental Health Institute. Oops, Mendota is a union shop they might be on strike or something. You should call ahead..providing the union switchboard operator at the capitol isn’t out on strike.

It seems Gov. Cheeseburglar is also a huge devotee of the Cult of St. Ronnie of Reagan. According to Scottie, Ronnie’s firing of the air traffic controllers was, “the first crack in the Berlin Wall and led to the fall of the Soviets.”

Um Gov? Ronnie was responsible for lots of things (though contrary to popular belief, not single-handedly bringing down the Evil Empire), but legally firing union workers who had no collective bargain nor strike rights? That he did, according to the letter of the law. He didn’t gut an already legal union. He fired workers conducting an illegal strike by simply following the existing law.

Richer Than a Double-Cream Muenster
Oh, and word to the deunionization hotheads…by firing almost all controllers at the same time we still suffer cyclical  problems with ATC staffing as nearly the entire workforce turns over every 20 years or so. And BTW, almost none of the non-monetary issues – which for many controllers were as important as the money – have been looked at since. The air traffic system is still circa 1981 which was already circa 1941.

It also seems Gov Extra Sharp has a nascent anger management problem. He promised to never give in, preferring the liberal application of “a slugger with my name on it” to get his own way.

Is he misleading the public lying? It would be charitable to answer yes, but so do most politicians. Is he crazy? Perhaps not in the clinical sense, but certainly in that curious way true ideologues are. Do I really think he’d tee up a Dem’s head for an out of the park HR? No, but I bet it gives him morning wood. Hey! Maybe THAT’s the “slugger” he’s talking about!

The false-flagged Koch asked,  “I’ll tell you what, Scott, once you crush these bastards, I’ll fly you out to Cali and really show you a good time.”

“All right, that would be outstanding,” Walker said. It’s “all about getting our freedoms back.”

Now that’s richer than a double-cream Muenster.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

 

 

 

On the Ground in Ohio

cross-posted from Sum of Change

COLUMBUS, OH: I am on the ground in Ohio, here to cover the protests for the couple days that I can afford to be away from DC. Today, despite a persistent rain, demonstrators lined the sidewalk outside of the Capitol Building in Columbus to voice their opposition to Senate Bill 5 which threatens state employees' bargaining rights. Today's protest was a lead up to tomorrow, when thousands are expected to descend on Columbus.

I also want to include the full interview I did with one of the teachers:

Some helpful facts about Ohio and collective bargaining (from the Examiner , not directly quoted)

• Ohio public employees make the same or less than their counterparts in the private sector (although a higher percentage of state workers have college degrees)
• In the last 9 years, state workers have taken 5 years of pay freezes (that's with collective bargaining)
• Budget gaps are higher, on average, in states that do not allow collective bargaining
• State employee payroll in Ohio equals only 9% of the state budget

We'll be here for part of the protest tomorrow too!

Not about the candidates; MYDD unfair to CNA and nurses

I am so chagrined at how oblivious and naive I am.  I have been here at MYDD for many months, after I left the Big Orange Site.  I have really enjoyed myself here, but now I am really pissed off.  I just noticed the tag ad at the end of every diary, including my one and only attempt at a diary of my own.  I am talking about the 'SHAMEONCNA.COM' ad.  

I had no idea what that was about, talk about a subliminal message.  Does anyone else know what I am talking about?  I finally noticed the subtitle 'unfair to nurses'.  I am a nurse, you would think I would have noticed this sooner.  There is nothing nearer and dearer to my heart than what is going on in health care.  

I just clicked on the ad to find out what it was about and what I found was a site that is dedicated to bashing the California Nurses Association and the National Nurses Organizing committee.  This site is primarily an SEIU site claiming things like this:

The California Nurses Association fought to stop me and my co-workers from getting better pay and more job security. We spent 3 years working to organize our workplace and make CHP hospitals a better place for workers and patients.

But CNA/NNOC came in at the last minute and flooded our state with lies to stop our democratic election. CNA/NNOC spent lots of money to try to turn nurses against other healthcare workers and stop us from having a say in our future.  

Thanks to CNA/NNOC's union-busting, people like me still don't have a union standing up for our rights."

Boy this CNA sounds really bad doesn't it?  Unfortunately, that's not an accurate picture.  SEIU is making back room deals with companies/corporations such as nursing homes and hospitals to bring in their union.  Well what's wrong with that?  It takes out the workers right to unionize and have the employer choose the union for them.  It makes you wonder what SEIU has offered in return for this priveledge to unionize against the workers wishes.  (By the way, I am an avid union supporter, and I am not objecting to unions.  I am objecting to SEIU directly.)  Anyway, from what I have been reading about SEIU, they are helping to lobby for tort reform to prevent patients and their families from suing when a nursing home has neglected or abused their family member.  I have also read that SEIU has gone against nurse's wishes to get rid of 'whistle blower' protections.  In essence, the union will actually be representing the Health Care facility, and not the best interests of the nurses.  Any time someone goes against a nurse, I have to ask why.  What's in it for them.  When nurse's lobbly for lower patient ratios, it is for the safety of the patient and the nurse.  When a facility, a union, or a governor (Arnie) comes out against the nurse, I always agree with the nurse.  Nurses have the patients best wishes always in the forefront of their minds.  Anyway, here is some information from the CNA site:

This was achieved through a pact between nursing home chains and the two-million-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the nation's largest union, which represents nurses, orderlies, and other healthcare employees. Under the pact, the union would use its clout with California Democrats to push nursing-home-industry goals such as tort reform, which would limit patients and their families' right to sue in cases of wrongful death or injury; in exchange, the chains selected facilities where the SEIU could absorb workers into union ranks. This was part of national SEIU leader Andy Stern's strategy of collaboration rather than confrontation, and included deals in Washington state, Missouri, and California designed to rapidly add to union ranks on terms attractive to employers.

This shows me that SEIU is not interested in the best interests of nurses or their patients; thier only interest is swelling their ranks, so that their power can grow.

That brings me to why I am so pissed off today.  I am not a prolific writer, and only attempted one other diary.  I am not even sure if this diary will generate any interest, since most people here are only interested in the candidate diaries.  But, I really had to express my outrage that this site is set up so that the 'shame on cna.com' ad is attached to every diary.  Are there any other nurses out there?  Do you know what I am talking about?  This site is going against the California Nurse's Association and they are making us just as complicit by attaching that ad to every diary.  That's not fair.  I don't support SEIU in this.  I think that you could at least give us a choice.  Anyway as I said, I am not a big writer, so if I don't write here any more, it won't be any big loss to MYDD.  However, I if I don't get a good explanation or any support for this point of view, I probably will lose interest in MYDD and won't continue coming here.  OK, so have at it.  I sure no one would miss me, and this probably won't be answered by any of the Admin's.  Actually, as soon as I post this, I will send them a note and see if they care.  that's it for now.  I hope I at least hear from some nurses.

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